You’ve heard the Quixotic Deacon rant about greed and excess in the corporate world. I’ve detailed the pay packages at Walmart and McDonald’s and looked at the compensation of  CEOs and board members generally in earlier posts. If you didn’t read those posts and are curious, take a look at them in this website’s archives.

  1. Walmart Pt.1 – August 26, 2017
  2. Walmart Pt. 2 – September 5, 2017
  3. McDonald’s Corporation and Income Inequality – October 12, 2017
  4. Walmart: A brief revisit – October 23, 2017
  5. Greedy Capitalists – November 9, 2017

I assume most of you are up to date on the corporate scene and the gulf between pay at the top and pay at the bottom. So, today I want to turn our attention to the latest example of truly wretched excess — men’s professional golf.

First I should explain why I am bringing up this relatively frivolous subject. After all, I’m not a fan of the PGA and don’t find the male players to be a very likeable lot. Yet I could not ignore some news I heard recently about a special event designed to titillate the PGA fan.. And when I learned the details of the event, I wondered whether we might in fact have hit a new high in American excess. Let’s look at what is proposed.

Two of the biggest stars on the PGA Tour, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, propose to play 18 holes of match play golf in Las Vegas (where else?) in a made-for-TV event. The winner would take home $10 million. Each of these golfer’s net worth is estimated to be in the mid- to high-nine digits. So they are pretty close to being billionaires. Mickelson, quoted in Golf Magazine, acknowledged the absurdly high purse:

“It’s a ridiculous amount of money,” Mickelson says. “No matter how much money you have, this amount will take both of us out of our comfort zone.”

In reading about this monument to excess, I have not read one comment such as, “Isn’t this a bit obscene?” And, so, I ask, isn’t it a bit obscene? The purses that men of the PGA play for weekly are already astronomical.  The top 50 men golfers have all earned over $2 million with five months left in the season. The top 10 men golfers have all earned over $4 million so far this year. And they all earn much more in endorsement deals. The major men’s tournaments pay purse money of $10 to $12 million with more than $2 million to the winner.  So the winner of this cheesy event will earn more than the total purse for any PGA tournament except for the four majors. It will be the equivalent of winning all four majors plus a minor tournament. And these two golfers are not even remotely at the top of the PGA money list for 2018. Mickelson is 10th and Tiger Woods is 43rd.

So why all this largesse for these two aging golfers? Is it because of their  exemplary lifestyles? Probably not. Off the course, Woods is best known for his womanizing and stints in rehab while Mickelson is best known for his appetite for betting large sums at golf and many other sports. If you google “Mickelson gambling” or “Tiger Woods women,” you’ll get the picture. It tells you a lot about the average sports-minded male that such an event is likely to be hugely popular. And that, of course, explains the interest for the network that will televise the event. I suspect that the telecast will be widely viewed.  For myself, I find it a nauseating display of vulgarity. Our country seems to enjoy the spectacle of throwing money at fabulously wealthy people. After all, it is the rule in the corporate world, so why not in sports?

For those of you who, like me, are sports fans, but who don’t particularly love the commercialism of most of the top men’s sports — the NFL, NBA, MLB and PGA — why not follow some women’s sports? If you like golf, you have a wholesome alternative — the LPGA. Though the women of the LPGA play for about 25 percent of the purse money that men get, they seem happier, more approachable, and are generally more fun to watch than the superstar mega-millionaires of the PGA. Last week, the British Women’s’ Open was played in England and a 22-year-old English woman named Georgia Hall won. Her father was her caddy. She earned less than 25 percent  of what a men’s British Open winner would earn. In 2018 the dominant player on the LPGA — Ariya Jutanugarn — is from Thailand. She has earned just over $2 million so far this year and has played in 20 events. If she played on the PGA Tour, her earnings would be 43rd on the money list. Here’s the link to the LPGA website:

It’s tempting for me to discuss the disparity in pay for women in sports versus men. The Women’s National Soccer team has been fighting for pay equal to the Men’s National team for years. And they organized into a union to do so.  So a second sport that I would recommend for those of you who aren’t conventional sports fans is women’s international soccer. With the Women’s World Cup scheduled for next year in France, it’s an ideal time to start following our women’s national team. Here’s the link:

Spectator sports on television is not the best use of one’s time. My mother taught me early on that being outdoors is preferable, although she put it much more strongly than that. And she backed up her opinion by kicking us out of the house every afternoon after school and restricting our TV watching to one show per day in the evening if our grades were all A’s. But since I am out of sight of my mom now, I do from time to time find spectator sports a pleasant diversion. I bet many of you do, too. So, instead of being a lemming and following all the men’s sports, why not branch out and enjoy women’s sports. I find it just as much fun and much less vulgar.


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About Buck Close

Deacon Buck Close serves on the staff of the Church of St. John the Evangelist in Newport, RI. He was born in South Carolina, graduated from Tulane University in 1972 with a BA in Economics and Latin American Studies.

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